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We experience intense cold in Lapland in winter and face searing heat in Phoenix, Arizona, in summer. In spring and fall, we go on test drives in the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps. As a test driver, you really get around.
After a while, you develop a lot of routine even for such tests, which are extremely taxing for man and machine. I’ve developed a routine especially for packing my luggage. I’m often asked which clothes and special-purpose garments I take along when I travel to northern Sweden for the winter tests, for example. Such was the case in January, when I tested the all-new EQC, the first electric vehicle from our new product and technology brand EQ. One would think that I would choose warm and thick clothing. However, the winter test drives have shown me that even though the equation Lapland = snowsuit seems to be a no-brainer, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Warming up with the test vehicles
At minus 34 degrees Celsius, it was very cold even for Sweden. Moreover, the snow was higher than it had been in a long time. However, we didn’t get really cold because we got to test two very fascinating vehicle models:
In addition to seven prototypes of the EQC, we tried out a preproduction model of the GLC F-CELL, which was unveiled at the IAA auto show last year. Like every other new model from Mercedes-Benz, electric and fuel cell vehicles also have to pass this trial on the ice.
Both of the vehicles put smiles on our faces and adrenaline-infused warmth into our veins. Thanks to dynamic electric motors and variable all-wheel drive, it’s great fun to drive the EQC as it slides across frozen lakes. Moreover, the rush of adrenaline you get during the test drive makes you feel really warm inside!
A very special winter test
The thing that’s especially unusual about this winter test is the background noise. Unlike cars with combustion engines, the new vehicle’s drive system hardly makes a sound. As I get off to a freezing cold start, I strain my ears to hear anything. As a result, I perceive the crunching sound that the tires make on the snow more vividly than ever before.
Freezing outside, cozy inside: Thanks to the vehicles’ electric heating systems, the interiors of the EQC and the GLC F-CELL warm up much faster than those of cars with combustion engines. It’s one of our tasks to find out how quickly the interiors warm up. Our testing program for a new model encompasses more than 500 separate tests. Numerous additional tests have to be conducted for electric vehicles such as the GLC F-CELL and the EQC.
In these tests, we check, for example, how well the EQC accelerates after a cold start or when its battery is cold. We also have to determine how intense cold influences the electric vehicles’ range under real-life conditions. In addition, we test the operating strategy and the energy recovery system.
The tuning of the handling systems is another thing we check. For example, ESP® requires very special control strategies when it is combined with high-torque electric Motors.
The things that interest us about the GLC F-CELL include the interaction between the fuel cell and the high-voltage battery as well as the behavior of the carbon-fiber-covered hydrogen tanks under extreme conditions. What’s more, we want to know how the valves activate in this cold environment.
Another important aspect is of course the handling of the charging cables. In order to test the vehicles’ charging behavior, all of the various charging systems are provided for us at the test center in Arjeplog. These systems range from a simple power socket to an AC wall box and DC charging devices. We use a variety of charging profiles to depict the various customer groups and how they recharge vehicles.
Even though the all-weather tunnel in Sindelfingen can simulate cold conditions at the push of a button, winter is naturally more realistic in northern Sweden. This includes snow and sudden storms. In the mornings, we do a body check in which we go around the vehicles in order to determine whether all of the mechanical functions work as they should. To prevent me from getting caught out in the cold during this walk-around, I continue to pack a thick snowsuit into my suitcase.